- Hardcover: 288 pages
- Publisher: Simon & Schuster (March 14, 2017)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1501105388
- ISBN-13: 978-1501105388
- Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 1 x 8.4 inches
- Shipping Weight: 2.3 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #46,388 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Nabokov's Favorite Word Is Mauve: What the Numbers Reveal About the Classics, Bestsellers, and Our Own Writing Hardcover – March 14, 2017
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“A hell of a lot of fun … There's something cheeky in the way Blatt throws genre best-sellers into his statistical blender alongside literary lions and hits puree, looking for patterns of style shared by, say, James Joyce and James Patterson.”
—Wall Street Journal
—The Boston Globe
“Nate Silver-esque number crunching meets the canon in this quirky, arresting deconstruction of literature's greatest hits.”
—O, The Oprah Magazine
“Fascinating … the book had me humming with pleasure.”
—The Sunday Times
“A super fun book for lit nerds … [a] wonderful addition to any book-lovers’ TBR pile.”
—Literary Hub, One of the Lit Hub’s “Best Books About Books”
“Terrific. I recommend it heartily.”
“Blatt doesn't just shine a light on writing, he lets in a whole new area of the electromagnetic spectrum. … [Blatt] has achieved something impressive with this book. I've read a lot of books about words, but none like this. … Anyone interested in literature or becoming a better writer will find something to like here.”
—Mark Peters, Dog Eared blog
“This is really the most delicious kind of rabbit hole ... If you’re a writer, you won’t be able to resist it. If you know a writer, give this as a gift and find yourself adored. … It can be dipped into like a squirrel’s nut hoard, enjoyed a quick nibble at a time, or dived into headfirst, one fascinating tidbit leading to the next to the next to the next. ”
—Publishers Weekly, Shelf Talker column
“Book-lovers will delight in Nabokov’s Favorite Word Is Mauve ... accessible, entertaining, and enlightening.”
“Delivers a statistical study of literature in the vein of Freakonomics … [Blatt] approaches the subject with the right mix of humor, hand-holding and literary love … yield[s] insights which would be impossible to recognize on their own.”
“Lively … worthwhile … Read this book thoughtfully. It’s fun. And, I think, the shape of some very interesting things to come.”
—The Times (London)
“Blatt's new book reveals surprising literary secrets … and unexpected anomalies in classic works ranging from James Joyce and Jane Austen to Chuck Palahniuk and E.L. James.”
“Blatt takes a by-the-numbers look at literary classics and finds some fascinating patterns … makes a strong argument.”
“Illuminating entertainment … Literary criticism by the numbers.”
“Amiable and intelligent … literature enthusiasts will enjoy the hypotheses [Blatt] poses and his imaginative methods.”
“A statistician uses curiosity and big data to uncover answers to persistent literary questions. … The result is a lighthearted numerical examination of words that is informative, surprising and funny.”
“[A] fun and interesting book … his breezy and engaging volume fulfills its promise to provide the reader with an appreciation or deeper understanding of an author or favorite writer … and alerts the writer to the trends, patterns and uses of grammar, vocabulary and punctuation in one’s own writing.”
“What fun this is! Ben Blatt’s charming book applies numerical know-how to questions of literary style, teasing out insights about cliffhangers, adverbs, and whether Americans write ‘more loudly’ than the British. (Spoiler: WE DO!!!)”
—Jordan Ellenberg, author of How Not to Be Wrong
“It was statisticians, rather than historians, who cracked the centuries-old mystery of the Federalist Papers—and they did it with mere paper and pencil. Operating in the same investigative spirit—and with the benefit of vastly more powerful tools—Ben Blatt probes the literary canon for unexpected revelations and insights. The result is a literary detective story: fast-paced, thought-provoking, and intriguing.”
—Brian Christian, co-author of Algorithms to Live By
“Ben Blatt’s delightful book gives us an original big data perspective on great writers’ work. Its humor, insights, and statistical displays are fascinating to behold, even as it helps us develop our own writing.”
—Carl N. Morris, Professor Emeritus of Statistics, Harvard University
About the Author
Ben Blatt is a former staff writer for Slate and The Harvard Lampoon who has taken his fun approach to data journalism to topics such as Seinfeld, mapmaking, The Beatles, and Jeopardy! He is the author of Nabokov’s Favorite Word Is Mauve and, with Eric Brewster, the coauthor of I Don’t Care if We Never Get Back, which follows the duo’s quest to go on the mathematically optimal baseball road trip, traveling 20,000 miles to a game in all thirty ballparks in thirty days without planes. Blatt’s work has also been published in The Wall Street Journal, The Boston Globe, and Deadspin.
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Top customer reviews
Take an author's favorite word, for example; that is, the word he uses more than any other. We know from the title what Nabokov's was, and you might think "so what?" But read on. Discover Ray Bradbury's, as well. Jean M Auel's. JK Rowling and Agatha Christie. Lists, charts, graphs and diagrams accompany Blatt's so-engaging writing and researches, and although his main interest is fiction, he delves also into the various "how to write" guides that certain novelists have written - and then checks to see if they followed their own advice.
To be completely truthful, my interest started to fade at the end, as Blatt got into analyzing page counts, opening sentences, and the size of an author's name on the cover. But the 176 pages before that had raced by, more than compensating for the (comparative) dullness of the last forty. And now I find myself thinking about all the follow-ups he could deliver: spiraling out of their brief entries in this book, similar studies could be devoted exclusively to 19th century novelists (what was William Thackeray's "cinnamon" word?); to modern erotica (what is Chrissie Bentley's "nod" word?); to children's books (did WE Johns use "the" more than Carolyn Keene?).
And unanswered here, but worth pondering, regardless - would this same methodology even begin to work in non-fiction?
The other key is its systematic attention to interesting detail -- Blatt's Bayesian methodology is all about finding what is most unusual about a particular book, author, or genre. This method consistently uncovers amusing and quirky facts. One of my favorites was how relatively unlikely it was for male authors to describe their male characters as scared.
Overall: clear, accessible, incisive, and fun. In my experience, kids are a lot more tolerant of combining words and numbers than adults are. I think they'll find this book whimsical and inspiring, as will adults who haven't succumbed to the evils of specialization. I'd also recommend this book to technical writers or quantitative journalists who struggle with writing clear, engaging quantitative material.